Our Lady of Peñafrancia
By Ramon FVelasquez (Own work)[CC
BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Feastday: Third Sunday of
Our Lady of Peñafrancia (Spanish: Nuestra
Señora de Peñafrancia in the Philippines, and Nuestra Señora de la Peña de
Francia or Virgen de la Peña de Francia in Spain) is a wooden statue of the
Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in the Bicol, Philippines. The image comes from
the original image enshrined in Salamanca, Spain. It is currently housed at the
Peñafrancia Basilica where every September is held for the novena festivities in
honor of the image as the principal Patroness and Queen of Bicol.
Pope Pius XI granted the image a Canonical
coronation on 20 September 1924 via his Apostolic delegate, Monsignor Guillermo
Piani. On 3 December 2015, a mosaic image of the Virgin Mary under this title
was officially enshrined at the Vatican Gardens for the 14th slot at the
pontifical mandate of Pope Francis. The ceremony was attended by the President
of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III who unveiled the image with honors.
History of Our Lady of
In Salamanca, Spain
On September 4, 1401, in the city of Paris, capital of France, a child was born
to pious and religious parents, Rolan and Barbara. He was christened Simon. The
family was quite well off, and their property was more than sufficient to
maintain a family of four. Early in his youth, however, Simon despised wealth
although his parents could well afford his wishes. When his parents and his only
sister died, Simon inherited all their property. To avoid trouble, which he
thought might ensue from his possession of such wealth, he sold his patrimony
and donated the proceeds to the Church, the poor and the destitute, as well as
to charitable institutions. He then applied for a position as a chamber boy in
the convent of a Franciscan church in Paris.
Simon would frequently visit the church and spend hours in prayer before the
altar of the Virgin Mary. Many times, in his deep meditation, he would ask the
Holy Virgin to inspire him in what he might do to please her. Once, while he was
absorbed in spiritual contemplation of the beauty of the Holy Mother, he lost
consciousness. His prayer was answered for he heard a clear voice that tried to
rouse him from slumber: “Simon, wake up; be on the watch…. From now on your name
will be Simon Vela. Go to Peña de Francia west of this country, and there you
will find the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary".
For five (5) years Simon Vela traveled far and wide among caves, hills and
mountains, in search of Peña de Francia but he could not find the place. He
wanted to give up the search, and was in fact already on his way back to Paris,
when one night he heard the same voice once more saying: “Simon, do not give up
the search; do not give up what you have begun. Persevere and your labors will
be recompensed.” This suddenly buoyed up his spirits and so he resumed his
search the next day.
Simon went to the Church of Santiago de Galicia. And while he was passing the
market place of Salamanca, he saw two men quarreling. One was seriously wounded
and fell at Simon’s side. The offender was caught by the crowd who milled around
them and he brazenly remarked: “Had I killed my enemy, I would have escaped to
Peña de Francia where no one, not even the king, could find me.” Simon was
overjoyed when he heard this for now he knew that such a place did actually
Several hours afterwards he resumed his way to the church of San Martin. On his
way he met a man selling charcoal. Simon asked the man where he came from, and
the man said he came from a place called Peña de Francia. This was the second
time that Simon heard the name of the place mentioned. He then begged the man to
guide him to the place called Peña de Francia but for some reason the latter
refused to do so.
Simon traced the road through which he thought the man has passed. He then
reached a villa called San Martin de Castañar on May 14, 1434. He went to church
and after the mass, he asked a man to kindly indicate where Peña de Francia was.
The man took Simon Vela to a place some distance from the church and pointed to
him a hill in the far distance saying that the hill was the Peña de Francia he
was looking for. Simon was very grateful and thanked God for having found the
man who showed him the place of his dream.
Simon then set out for the place indicated and, after a long weary journey, came
to a steep rocky hill. By this time, his supply of provisions had been depleted
and he was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger. The climb over the hill had
considerably weakened him, but he was not disheartened because he knew deep
within him that God had not forsaken him to a fruitless and useless search. And
indeed how right he was for on the road otherwise abandoned he found a packet
containing a loaf of bread and piece of meat. This relieved him so much until
night overtook him and he sought shelter in a cave. Inside he prayed for
guidance and soon he was lost in deep slumber.
Early in the morning of the next day, Simon began the search for the shrine in
every cave where he had slept the night before. He felt distressed and
discouraged for his seemed as distant as it was when he started. He knelt and
prayed for strength and courage.Soon, he heard the same voice he had previously
heard resounding clearly through the cave: “Simon, be awake: do not sleep.”
Simon continued the search with more zeal in the morning of the next day. At a
distance on a rocky hill, he saw a glaring and dazzling light filling the place
with its brilliance. Trembling with joy, he approached it and there he found the
Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus in her arms sittings on a golden throne. He
Knelt before her and prayed with all the fervor of his soul. The ecstatic Simon
said, “Oh, Lady, the dream of my soul, the inspiration of men and women! My
labors are now ended. Many years have I traveled far and wide to seek you and to
drink in the beauty of your eyes! Do not forsake me: be my protection.”
In sympathy for Simon, the Lady answered: “Simon, rejoice! Your constancy will
be rewarded. Your dream will be realized. Your labors are now ended. Take heed
and keep in your heart what I wish you to do. Dig in this spot and take what you
can see and place it on the summit of this rocky hill. Build on this hill a
beautiful dwelling. You are to begin it and others will come to finish it.. This
must come to pass as it has been the wish of my child.” Then the Lady suddenly
disappeared and Simon was left standing alone and rooted in the spot with wonder
On the morning of May, 1434, on the spot where the apparition of the Holy Virgin
disappeared, Simon began the work of digging and excavating. He, however, heard
the same voice again saying: “Simon, do not attempt to undertake that big task
alone. Undertake it in the presence and with the help of two, three, or more
persons.” Evidently this was to avert any doubt or suspicion from people as to a
veracity of the miracle and the credibility of Simon. So Simon went to San
Martin del Castañar, a nearby town from the spot, and asked five men to help him.
They were Anton Fernandez, Pascual Perez, Benito Sanchez, Juan Hernandez and
Antonio Sanchez, the parish scribe of the place.
These men thought that they were digging for hidden treasure but they were
informed that they were going to dig for objects worth far more than any worldly
goods their hearts could cherish. They dug unceasingly,
clearly following directions from divine inspiration. Finally, on May 19, 1434,
after removing a huge stone, they found embedded among the rocks, the most
coveted image of the Holy Virgin with the Child in her arms.
In Naga, the Philippines
According to locals in what is now Naga City, a Spanish colonial official from
Peñafrancia, Spain (a native of San Martín de Castañeda) settled with his family
in Cavite in 1712. One day, Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, a son of the official
and a seminarian studying at the Universidad de Santo Tomás in Manila, fell
seriously ill. He and his family prayed to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, whose
picture Miguel clutched to his breast as he hoped for recovery. Miguel vowed
that if cured, he would out of gratitude construct a chapel on the banks of the
Pasig River in Manila.
Miguel was miraculously cured, and ordained a priest not in Manila but in Ciudad
de Nueva Cáceres (now Naga City) by Bishop Andrés González. To fulfill his vow,
Miguel (who was the first diocesan priest ordained in Naga), did two things.
First, he mobilised natives along the slopes of Mount Isarog to build a chapel
from the local nipa and bamboo, at a site by the banks of the Bikol River and
not the Pasig as he earlier desired. Second, he ordered a local artisan to carve
an image patterned after the picture of Our Lady of Peñafrancia that he always
carried with him.
Stories of miracles surrounding the image began circulating immediately,
beginning with the account of a resurrected dog. The animal was killed for its
blood, which was to be used in painting the newly carved image of Our Lady, and
the carcass was dumped into the Bikol river. The dog suddenly came back to life
and began swimming; hundreds allegedly witnessed the event. News of many other
miracles spread quickly, as did public devotion to the image. A letter sent by
Miguel to the Dominicans in Salamanca, Spain in 1712 reported numerous miracles
through the intercession of Our Lady. The number of devotees eventually
increased beyond the Diocese of Nueva Cáceres, which comprised the Bicolandia
and Marinduque, and in modern times the devotion has reached other parts of the
world along with the Filipino diaspora.
The image is known to devotees by the title Ina, a local term for "Mother".
Canonical coronation of the image
The Canonical Coronation of Our Lady of Peñafrancia as "Patroness of Bicolandia"
took place on 20 September 1924, officiated by Monsignor Guillermo Piani, the
Apostolic Delegate. The image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia currently enshrined in
the church on Calle Balatas is approximately 275 years old, making it highly
sought-after by antique dealers and collectors.
Colgante Bridge tragedy
More than a hundred devotees were killed when Colgante Bridge in Barangay
Peñafrancia collapsed on Saturday, 16 September 1972. The overloaded bridge
collapsed from the weight of people waiting for the pagoda barge bearing the
icon to sail halfway through the fluvial procession on the Naga River. The
procession was returning the image to its shrine from Naga Metropolitan
Cathedral after the novena in the Virgin's honour.
Naga was at the time simmering with rumors of a supposed meeting between leaders
of the insurgent New People’s Army and José María Sison, secretary-general of
the Communist Party of the Philippines. This made headlines in papers such as
the Naga Times the day following the accident.
Theft of the image
On the morning of 15 August 1981, the image was stolen from its shrine inside
Peñafrancia Church. The news shocked the entire region, and devotees were
incredulous of the sacrilegiousity of the theft. A massive search for the image
was immediately undertaken by the military and civilians, during which a
policeman was killed and a police lieutenant wounded when their jeepney was
ambushed by heavily armed men somewhere in Bolo Sur, Sipocot, Camarines Sur.
Devotees almost lost all hope in finding the image, with many of the tip-offs
proving to have been false. The approaching feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia
necessitated an image to be borne during the traslación or transfer of the image
and the accompanying fluvial procession. A replica was commissioned by church
authorities and another image was donated by the First Lady Imelda Marcos.
A little over a year later, the image was returned to Rt Rev. Monsignor
Florencio Yllana, P.A., Liaison Officer of the Catholic Bishops Conference of
the Philippines and former Rector of the image's shrine. On 8 September 1982,
(the Feast of the Nativity of Mary), a motorcade from Manila bearing the image
arrived in Naga at the height of Typhoon Ruping. The foul weather did not deter
thousands of devotees who braved the raging winds and devastating floods to
celebrate the image's return. At 10:00 in the evening of the same day, the image
was safely re-enshrined at the Metropolitan Cathedral, where a concelebrated
pontifical Mass was offered in thanksgiving for the image's safe return and
The image is now enshrined at the Minor Basilica along Calle Balatas in Naga,
which was built as its new home after the old church.
The feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is celebrated on the
Sunday after the Octave (8 Days) of September 8 (The Birth of the Blessed Virgin
Mary) that usually falls on the second or third Sunday of September in Naga
City, Bicol Philippines. All roads and routes will lead to Naga City in
Camarines Sur where six million Bicolanos from both Bicol and abroad will flock
to that progressive city to pay honor to the Virgin of Peñafrancia, miraculous
patroness of the Bicol Region. Bicolanos from all walks of life will be in Naga
City to meet their relatives and partidarios, share food, drinks, and prayers
with them, and most of all, to pay homage and make thanksgiving to the Virgin of
Peñafrancia, whom the Bicolanos fondly call Ina. They will shout "Viva la Virgen"
to the high heavens. The feast day is preceded by a novena, or nine days of
prayer, in honor of the Virgin. On the first day, the image of the Virgin, a
copy of the Madonna in Peñafrancia, Spain, is brought from its shrine to the
Naga Cathedral where the novena is held. On the last day, the image is returned
to her shrine following the Naga River route. The colorful evening procession is
lit by thousands of candles from followers in boats escorting the image. When
the flatboat reaches its destination, the devotees shout "Viva la Virgen" (Long
live the Virgin!) and the image is carried back in a procession to the cathedral.
Millions of Bicolanos will once again show to the whole Christian world their
strong faith and loyalty to their Heavenly Mother. amongst triumphant sounding
shouts of Viva la Virgen, Bicolanos and pilgrims, with lighted candles in their
hands, will kneel on the ground and bow their heads in prayer as the colorful
fluvial procession carrying the Virgin plows through the Bicol River in downtown
A multicolored pagoda carrying the images/icons of the Virgin of Peñafrancia and
the Divino Rostro will pass through the Bicol River. Male, sunburned devotees of
the Virgin will adhere to the huge pagoda in a heartwarming display of faith and
devotion. Actually, the fluvial procession marks the return of the Virgin from
the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral to her home shrine at the Basilica. Upon its
arrival, the Virgin will be received in formal religious rites by Roman Catholic
dignitaries of the Bicol Region led by Cardinal Jose T. Sanchez.
Considered the biggest and most popular religious event in the Philippines, the
Peñafrancia fiesta is in fact a one-week affair that starts on the second Friday
of September when the miraculous Ina is transferred from her shrine to the
centuries-old Naga Metropolitan Cathedral where a nine-day novena and prayers
are held in her honor. Ranking government officials, Cabinet members,
ambassadors, governors, mayors, senators, diputados, business/industry leaders,
landlords, etc., vie for the distinct honor of sponsoring a nightly novena and
prayers at the Naga Cathedral.
Events of the image's feast
Novena to the Divino Rostro
The festivities begin in a nine-day novenario to the Divino Rostro, a local icon
of "the Divine/Holy Face". The Divino Rostro is brought in procession to the old
Peñafrancia Shrine, where it stays for nine days of the novenario, which usually
centres on the sick, and faith in Christ's power.
The second Friday of September marks the feast day of the Divino Rostro,
following nine days of the novena at the shrine. Bishops and delegates from
other dioceses attended Mass concelebrated by archbishops outside the shrine to
commemorate the feast of the Divino Rostro.
The image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia is transferred at dawn to her old home
for the Traslación in the afternoon. After the procession, a community and
thanksgiving Mass is celebrated to honour the image's arrival. After the Mass, a
Grand Pontifical Mass is celebrated by visiting archbishops from around the
Philippines, to commemorate the feast day of the Divino Rostro.
The Traslación begins at noon from the procession of the students, delegates
from other regions, teachers, government officials, and other professions while
the images are being prepared for the procession.
A Mass is celebrated before the Traslación while the people gather for the main
procession. After Mass, the Divino Rostro icon leaves the shrine and heads to
the Cathedral at a very slow pace. After a recital or two of the Rosary (depending
on the Divino Rostro's speed), the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia follows and
moves at a very slow pace, quite slower than the Divino Rostro's.
After two or three hours, the Divino Rostro icon arrives at Naga Cathedral, and
after an hour, the image of Our Lady enters. A Solemn Pontifical Mass is
celebrated after the procession,boutside the Cathedral.
After the Mass, the nine-day novenary for Our Lady begins inside the Cathedral.
Novenario to the Our Lady of
After the Traslacion, the nine-day novena to the Our Lady is held inside or
sometimes outside the Cathedral. Millions of devotees come to the Cathedral for
the novenario, praying for the divine intercession of Ina to her son, that their
prayers be heard and be fulfilled.
The novenario is said to have healed countless devotees, even the Bishop himself,
celebrating the novena is healed. The novena centers around Mary's intercession
to Jesus as we make our way, closer, and nearer to him.
Different parades are held during the nine-day novena to the Our Lady, and these
events are open to the public, with coverage on radio and television.
During the Saturday, after the Traslacion, the majorettes, CAT, and Drum and
Lyre Corps, plus marching bands, exhibit their skills in dancing, music playing,
and silent drill at the Robrerdo Coliseum.
On Tuesday, before the Fluvial Procession, the Regional Cheer-dance Competition
is held at the Plaza Quezon, Almost all of the schools and universities in Bicol
participate in this long, but very entertaining event.
Wednesday, the Boy Scouts, and Girls Scouts, including the Drum and Lyre corps,
and majorettes from different elementary and high schools in Bicol parade in the
daylong, Regional BSP/GSP and Drum and Lyre Corps parade and competition at
Plaza Quezon. The event is attended by representatives of both organizations in
Thursday, the most Civic Parade of the Government workers, and different
associations, and organizations in Bicol, and the Float Parade that is joined by
hundreds of floats, honoring Ina. This is followed by, in recent years, a street
dance competition of schools in the city.
On Friday, the most awaited, and the century-old military parade, participated
by all High Schools, and Colleges in Bicol, including members of the Philippine
National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, parade in the major
streets of Naga City. It is considered to be the longest every parade outside
Manila due to its daylong, sometimes reaches nighttime, parade. Dubbed the Bicol
Region Military Parade, it is also one of the big highlights of the celebrations,
with the Mayor of Naga acting as the reviewing officer, together with retired
and active military and police officers and personnel in attendance, together
with selected members of the House of Representatives, the Naga City Council and
provincial officials. Awards and decorations are handed out at the end to the
best contingents who marched past.
A fluvial procession at the end of the novena caps the feast. The image is
carried in a pagoda (the Filipino term for a decorated shrine-barge, usually
with more than one tier, used in fluvial processions) on its return journey to
the basilica, where a Pontifical Mass is held. Along the route, people shout "¡Viva
The image is escorted by a battalion of male (and sometimes foreigner) devotees,
most of them are aboard colorful paddle boats pulling the pagoda and those who
are privileged are joining the Lady on the pagoda together with the bishops of
Bicol, priests, seminarians, and some dignitaries in the government. Tradition
holds that if a woman, Filipina or foreigner, rides on the pagoda during the
September fluvial procession, it will spell disaster.
The Tercentenary Celebration
Tens of thousands of pilgrims, devotees, tourists come to
Naga City, Philippines every September for a nine-day festivities in honor of
Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicol, endearingly addressed by
Bicolanos as INA (mother). The festivities begin with the famous Traslacion
procession during which the images of the Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino
Rostro (Holy Face) are brought by barefooted male voyadores from the Basilica
through the main streets of the city to the Cathedral. This procession, which
usually lasts for 4 hours, is participated in by thousands of devotees from all
over Bicol and other parts of the country. The devotion started three hundred
years ago, in 1710, when Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias had an image carved, a
chapel built and processions held in honor of the miraculous image of the Virgin
of Peñafrancia on account to the many favors he received through the help of the
Virgin, especially pertaining to his health. Since then the devotion has grew
and has even reached abroad. Devotees’ accounts of healing and favors received
through her intercession are a reason for the spread of the devotion. Many have
come to Naga as curious visitors and left as devotees of the Virgin. In 2010,
the devotion shall mark its 300th year.
The Archdiocese of Caceres has outlined a three-year preparation for the
tercentenary with each year centered on a particular theme and objective.
Year 1 (September 2007 to September 2008 ) whose theme is “Remembering the Gift
of the Devotion to Ina”, will be dedicated to revisiting the history of the
devotion in view of a deeper understanding of the same devotion.
Year 2 (September 2008 to September 2009) whose theme is “Renewing the Faith
through Ina”, will be dedicated to appreciating the devotees’ giftedness towards
a more vibrant and relevant faith life.
In Year 3 (September 2009 to September 2010) whose theme is “Sharing the Future
in Hope”, will be dedicated to envisioning the future with the intent of sharing
the fruits of the devotion to the next generations.
Year 2010 (September 2010), the church in Bicol will celebrate in thanksgiving
the grace of 300 Years of Devotion. The over-all theme of the celebration is “A
Gift received, a Gift to share” (Balaog inako, Balaog itao).
The "Himno a la Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia" or "Resuene Vibrante" as
Bicolanos call it, is the official hymn of the devotees to the Lady of
Bicolandia composed by Fr. Maximo Huguera, CM in the year 1924. It won the first
prize during the hymn-writing competition for the Lady's canonical coronation.
This was translated to Bikolano by Fr. Jesus Esplana and Fr. Sohl Saez.
Nowadays, the full Spanish text of the hymn is not anymore sang. An example of
this is the one in YouTube.
But after 2010(the Tercentenary celebration) the full Spanish text is once again
sang. Sample is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6J9qIHS7lw.
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